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Texans' Second-Half Struggles Are the Real Problem for Gary Kubiak

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Texans' Second-Half Struggles Are the Real Problem for Gary Kubiak
Bob Levey/Getty Images

Suffering their 10th straight loss on Sunday afternoon, the Houston Texans showed what they were capable of in their loss to the Patriots.

Well, at least they did for most of the game, anyway.

It's been a long season of incomplete performances for a team that should be better. The Texans have so far scored only four touchdowns in the second half in 10 games, and two of them occurred during the team's only wins.

As far as problems go, it's another big one to add to the laundry list that faces Gary Kubiak. If he stands any chance of keeping his job, the Texans need to play a complete four quarters, not half of a football game.

But the reasoning for the Texans' poor attempts at staying in the game after everyone has visited the locker room falls outside of Kubiak's hands. On Sunday, three problems were evident, and they probably have been all season. 

 

Protection

In every single one of the Texans' 10 losses, the protection has broken down significantly around either Matt Schaub or Case Keenum. It doesn't matter who Kubiak sticks in there to play quarterback, if guys like Duane Brown and Brandon Brooks aren't going to block, it's a predictable outcome. 

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When the Texans had their chance on Sunday to march down into field-goal position, the offensive line held up until the last couple of plays. Third-and-long went nowhere, and with 4th-and-15 next up, Keenum was sacked from behind when trying to muster up some sort of Hail Mary shot. 

But after blaming the linemen all season, it's obvious the tight ends haven't done a good job at keeping Keenum safe either. Garrett Graham had a game to forget this week, and even though Owen Daniels' receiving skills are missed, it's his protection of the quarterback's blind side that the Texans are sorely doing without. 

For most of the season, opposing linemen have had their run of the mill on the edge. And when Keenum does try to roll out and look downfield, there's almost always a lineman right behind him who hasn't taken a bite of the Texans' run fake.

If you were to grade the Texans' offensive line, or blocking in general this season, it would receive a solid "F." This has to be the biggest need in the draft.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

 

Dropped Balls

Andre Johnson played a heck of a game, and 121 yards is nothing to sneeze at. When it came time to being Mr. Clutch however, he dropped the ball, literally. 

Straight after Garrett Graham dropped a straightforward pass over the middle, Johnson also made a blue, letting go of an easy pass from Keenum that was right in his bread basket. Aside from a few errant throws, Keenum hasn't been throwing balls at the shoelaces, so most of the blame belongs on the receivers. 

Before Sunday's game, Johnson ranked 70th among the NFL's receivers with just three dropped catches this year. For Johnson, it's not a problem that will reoccur. But for the rest of the team, it's just another game killer. 

 

Scoring

Tom Brady was Tom Brady on Sunday. He found Rob Gronkowski when it mattered, and the two finished with a handy 127 yards between themselves. 

The Texans should have that kind of production, too, with the weapons they have, but sometimes it's simply a nice idea and nothing more. 

Sunday, Houston finally scored some points in the second half. It was all thanks to Ben Tate's cuts and some much-needed play-calling that got the Patriots defense thinking pass, only to see Tate run the other way. Unfortunately though, it's taken 14 weeks for Houston to crack the scoreboard in the second half.

It's not so much a problem of finding Andre Johnson or anyone wide open, because Keenum has done that. It's been getting the ball past the 30-yard line that's been the problem, and with Tate having hot and cold games, and guys like Keshawn Martin bobbling balls, it's not like the Texans have a ton of reliable options outside of No. 80. 

To solve this problem is hard, and it simply boils down to better chemistry between quarterback and wide receiver, but also some genius play calls that have been sorely lacking this season. 

Rookie DeAndre Hopkins was brought in this season to be that guy, the No. 2 player who could score with ease. But so far, he's only scored two touchdowns. 

If only Sunday's much-improved effort was a sign that the Texans have finally figured this thing out. With the Jaguars up again, we'll only have to wait four days to find out.

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